Friday, April 22, 2011

A New Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was broke.  Again.  For like the umpteenth time.  I've been fortunate in that I always have enough to pay all my bills, but future projections always looked grim.  So I took a closer look at my spending habits.

What I found, shocked me, although it really should not have.

Suffice it to say, I've been enjoying my income the last few months or so.  It has never really been mine to enjoy, through previous arrangements I've always had to share it with someone else.  I love that I was able to save up and pick out and purchase a new couch (my first piece of furniture that I've ever owned that wasn't second hand or purchased by someone else) and I was frugal and got a fantastic deal on it (I even got a free display case thrown in that now beautifully contains all of our digital media, including gaming systems).  But with the newfound freedom comes the need to be more responsible.  I don't have anyone else to be accountable to.  And I've definitely taken advantage of that.  

I don't have expensive tastes, but I do like to go out to eat (A LOT!) and I love to spoil my friends when I can.  I love to pick up little somethings, or treat friends to dinner, or help them out financially when I have the means to (sometimes when I don't).  That's not to say I'm Miss Moneybags now, but when I was struggling I had a lot of friends who weren't "made" but more comfortable than I was treat me to dinners, help me with projects, and lent me a $5 here or a $20 if I needed help with gas just because they loved me and wanted to spend time with me.

So back to how I'm broke.  I looked at my budget, and by far the biggest offender in dollars spent was eating out.  So I looked through and totaled up just how much I was spending on restaurants (this doesn't include groceries!).  I'm usually super-secretive about my money, but I think I need some more transparency, so here it goes:

It's condensed so you can see the bill for each month on the far-right of the image.  Here's the text breakdown:
  • January: $386.15
  • February: $341.20
  • March: $285.83
  • April: $210.87
Note that this doesn't include cash purchases.  Other than the withdrawal, I don't track where my cash goes exactly.  I actually was doing REALLY WELL this month.  Before this past weekend I had only spent about $85 for the month on the 15th.  I completely BINGED financially over the weekend.  I went out for sushi Friday night, Table Moutain buffet Saturday night, and rounded out the weekend with dinner before we saw Wicked.  That's over $100 I spent in just ONE WEEKEND eating at restaurants!  How freaking insane is that?

In two weeks, Jeff might be out of a job again (his temp assignment is ending, but we're still keeping our fingers crossed that they find more work for him at his current assignment).  Which means I'll need to carry the household alone for a little while.  I am EXTREMELY fortunate that I have the capacity to do that and still put a little bit of money in savings, including retirement.  But things are still going to be tight, and eating at restaurants has to go.  Frivolous spending will need to go.  Projects will no longer have the luxury of being completely spontaneous.  I might even revisit taking the bus through the summer and cutting back on social plans and visits during the week to save gas during peak consumption season so we can still afford gas to go on hiking trips at least once per month. (Yes, I know there are plenty of places to go closer to home, and trust me, they will be explored!)

So what's my challenge?  
  • To be more honest with myself about my money and introduce a little transparency. Detail every financial transaction and keep every receipt for a month, every month.
Being accountable for years did me a lot of good.  It got me out of debt in record time and allowed me to save for a house and major appliances for said house.  And if I did it before on less, I can definitely do it now.
  • Limit eating out to two or three times per month.
I prefer eating at home anyway.  I have better control over what is put in my food.  I don't have to wait as long to arrive at my kitchen table, the whole family can participate in meal preparation rather than being bored at the table, I don't have to wait every 20 minutes for my drink to be refilled, and the couch is just a few feet away after the meal saving me lots of dollars on unnecessary gas consumption. I just don't like the cleanup (I seriously feel like a slave to my kitchen!), and I bet if I asked the household (and even guests, because my friends are the most super duper awesome people!) to help me clean up after a meal I get:
  1. The best company the world has to offer;
  2. The job goes by at least half as fast!
So no more excuses!  And because I've been trying to incorporate a modest "minimalist" and clutter-free lifestyle (still a work in progress), my purchases for things I don't use is pretty much non-existent or at least has been diverted to going out to eat.  

You know, wait.  I'm going to stop and have a moment of pride over the fact that in the last 8 months I made a dramatic change to my spending habits.  Okay, sure it's really just a shift, but for someone who loves to acquire stuff, I still think the moment is worth celebrating.  This path is certainly NOT easy.

I'm really lucky that I really only need to make a couple minor lifestyle changes in order to maintain a level of comfortability that I still find enjoyable and fulfilling.  I know a lot of people aren't as blessed and there may be a time when I need help again.  Life's a cycle.  I just hope that I continue to make the best decisions possible for myself and the life I *want* to have.


PS_Iloveyou said...

Firstly I was having trouble leaving a comment on your direct link. Something about cookies blah blah blah.

Secondly, awesome job on being more accountable with your spending.

Thirdly, have I told you today that you're Awesome? Because you are!

Mica said...

Boo! I'm sorry you had trouble posting a comment. I'm not sure what I can do to help with that, but I changed a setting and let's see if that helps!

And yay! Double-thanks!